It was only a matter of time.
Delaware officials are reporting that a new pest has recently been found on pole lima beans in Sussex County.
Kudzu bugs have been moving northward for a number of years and its arrival, while unwelcome, is hardly unexpected.
It’s a small bug that likes to eat soybeans, garden beans, lima beans and similar crops. All are considered important crops in Delaware, especially soybeans and lima beans.
Officials have been quick to say that only a few of the bugs have been found in Delaware. But it’s not a surprise to Delaware farmers because kudzu bugs have been working their way northward from Georgia since 2009. By 2012, the small olive green bug with a bad smell was being found in Virginia.
Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee said farmers should be alert and report any suspected infestations, while noting there are pesticides that can be used to protect crops.
“We want farmers to know about this latest pest, which has been steadily on the move from the South since it was first detected in 2009. We now have an early warning, and this is the time to prepare,” Kee said.
University of Delaware entomologist Joanne Whalen said farmers should remain vigilant and check their fields for adults or egg masses. The bugs pierce and suck plants, meaning that holes or other obvious signs of infestation may not be easily seen. Whalen said farmers could observe reduced vigor among crops.
“The bottom line is that we are talking about an important pest for soybeans. But very few have been found. We’re not covered up,” she said. “We are talking about low numbers.”
“We know that these pests have been traveling, and now we know that they’re in Delaware,” said Dr. Faith Kuehn, Delaware Department of Agriculture’s plant industries administrator. “There are approved and safe treatments to keep the kudzu bug off crops, but preparation and awareness are key. This is still a relatively new plant pest in the United States, and we are steadily learning more about how it will feed, disperse and act here.”
A 2012 survey by the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension found none of the bugs anywhere in the state.
The kudzu bug, a relative of the stink bug, was previously confirmed as far north as Virginia. It has also been found in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. Soybean growers in the South have reported nymphs and adults feeding on plant stems and leaves.
The kudzu bug is so named because a primary host is the kudzu vine, an invasive plant introduced from Asia more than a century ago, which has been growing quickly in much of the southeastern United States. The olive green bugs are smaller than a dime, about 4-6 millimeters long, and can generate a bad odor if disturbed. Photos of kudzu bugs are available from the Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health.
Farmers with questions about the kudzu bug and how to best control it can contact the Delaware Department of Agriculture’s Plant Industries Section at 302-698-4500, University of Delaware entomologist Joanne Whalen at 302-831-1303 or local University of Delaware Cooperative Extension agents.